Q&A With Arnold Markowitz About Fishing In Miami’s Canals

Apr 17, 2012

Considering the amount of time we here at WLRN Miami Herald News have been talking about canals recently, due to our immersion into the Canoe Project, Arnold Markowitz, a listener, offered to us some information about an interesting characteristic of Miami canals: they have some pretty great fishing!

WLRN Miami Herald News reporter, Trina Sargalski, recently chatted with Arnold Markowitz, a local fishing expert here in Miami, about why he loves fishing in Miami’s canals.

Trina’s questions include some from comments on our blog and replies on Twitter.

You can read the Q&A here:

Where in South Florida do you live?

Miami Shores.


How long have you been fishing? Writing about the water? Do you now do this full time?

I’ve been fishing most of my life. I write the fishing column and a fishing-boating-habitat news roundup for the monthly paper Waterfront Times, published in Fort Lauderdale.

I began doing this early in 2002, about six months after I retired from the Miami Herald, where I was a general assignment reporter.


What are your favorite canals to fish in (if there are any)?

In Miami-Dade County, I favor the C-100, also called Cutler Drain, a complex system between West Kendall Drive and Deering Point.

In Broward, there are many canals, ponds and small swamps within a short distance from I-75. I also like the edge of the Everglades along US 27 from Weston north. Palm Beach is a long run for me in these days of high gas prices, but when I go there I like the vast system of canals that is accessible from public parks on Lakes Ida and Osborne.


What kinds of non-native species are in the canals?

There are many, most of them probably dumped by home aquarium keepers. The best game fish is the butterfly peacock, commonly but erroneously known as peacock bass. It was imported from South America in the 1980s by the state, in an effort to control an infestation of spotted tilapia. No. 2 is the largemouth bass, not an exotic but Florida’s signature freshwater game fish.

Along those lines, extreme angler Jeremy Wade from Animal Planet’s River Monsters caught ferocious snakeheads in South Florida canals. These are non-native species. I wonder if local freshwater fishermen have found any in the Miami-Dade area? So far they have only been reported in Broward. (This question is via Maria De Los Angeles.)

Some of the fish Jeremy Wade catches in other parts of the world give me bad dreams, but snakeheads are not really ferocious, even though they’re not cute. They are most common in the Margate area of northern Broward County. They’re fun to catch on light tackle. I’ve never seen one south of there. Another exotic with a narrow range is the clown knifefish, which was concentrated in the Lake Ida area of Palm Beach County. I understand they were virtually eliminated by the disastrous cold wave of January 2010.

Snapper Creek is where the butterfly peacock was introduced. Like most of the canals, it connects to the Intracoastal Waterway. When the flood control dams are opened in rainy season, tarpon and snook wait for forage to come downstream. Any of them who go above the dam and are stuck there when it closes survive quite well. Snapper Creek is dammed at Red Road in Pinecrest, about a mile and a quarter inland from Biscayne Bay.

There’s a fairly good boat ramp on Snapper Creek Drive, south of Sunset near SW 99 Ave. It’s not a pleasant place because it stinks of sacrificial chickens dumped there, and there’s all the litter and broken glass you could want, if you want that.

I’ve been startled by big leaping tarpon in a small canal near Miller Drive in Coral Gables, and another near Krome Avenue, south of Tamiami Trail and in a swamp off I-75 in Miramar, which is connected to Snake Creek Canal. Small tarpon sometimes are caught while fishing for other species in the lakes south of the Dolphin Expressway, across from Miami International Airport. Snook are there, too.

That’s part of the Tamiami Canal system, which also has some wonderful freshwater fishing , and it’s easy to get to. Use the ramp at Antonio Maceo Park, on NW Seventh Street a few blocks east of Red Road, It’s a zoo on weekends, but quiet Monday thru Friday.


How far inland manatees will roam?

They will go as far upland as necessary to find comfortable waters during a cold snap. I’ve seen them as far up as the Emerald Hills golf club in Broward. I’ve also seen them in Wagner Creek, one of the dirtiest streams in the state, near Jackson Memorial Hospital and the Gerstein Justice Building.


How do canals differ in Palm Beach, Broward and Dade counties?

Access is a little more difficult in Palm Beach, where I often find “no trespassing” signs posted on the levees by the Sheriff’s Dept. with no discernible reason. In Broward, the South Broward Drainage District, a public agency administering public waters and land access to the waters, feels free to post “Private Property” and “No Trespassing” signs. Timid people who fear signs don’t go there.

I don’t know that there’s much difference in water quality from one area to the next. Because you’re boating through cities and suburbs, all the waters will be affected by pesticide and fertilizer runoff and all sorts of automotive fluids. That doesn’t seem to bother the fish, but I wouldn’t eat them.

Animal life is not remarkable, unless you’re unaccustomed to iguanas, muscovy ducks and wading birds.

Other than the fishing and paddling, one of my favorite things about paddling through residential back yards is the dogs who come running out to invite me to stop and play.

You can follow one of our contributor’s four-day exploration of Miami’s canals here on our site via the Canoe Project.